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Alice Springs Academy joins Port for a day

SHONEEKA ABBOTT dreams of one day becoming a midwife and playing in the AFLW competition and the 16-year-old Alice Springs resident is a step closer to her dream becoming reality after an eye-opening visit to Adelaide.

Ms Abbott was among about 30 members of the Centralian Senior School Girls’ Academy that travelled 1500 kilometres to experience a world of possibilities in Adelaide, including programs run by the Port Adelaide Football Club.

The Girls Academy empowers girls by equipping them with the tools needed to break through the barriers that prevent them from completing their education in a similar fashion to the Women’s Aboriginal AFL Academy (WAAA) being run for the first time in 2018 by Port Adelaide.

The girls from Alice Springs spent a week in Adelaide visiting the University of Adelaide, Port Adelaide Football Club, Netball SA and attending Port Adelaide’s season-ending match against Essendon at Adelaide Oval.

But it was the opportunities on show that struck a chord with Ms Abbott.

“I’ve seen all the support and pathways for Aboriginal people to get into Uni and I really got inspired by that,” she told while at Alberton Oval.

“Coming to netball and footy I’ve seen that there are programs there to support you as well.

“Moving to Adelaide and having all this would be great because we don’t have that many opportunities in Alice.”

The year 11 student was given a tour of the Port Adelaide Football Club facilities, sharing a lunch and playing games with girls from the WAAA.

She is now rethinking her ambitions and the possibility of joining the WAAA.

“I was thinking of coming to Adelaide for uni and once I finished going back to my people to teach them that hey, you mob can do it too kind of thing,” Ms Abbott said.

“Everyone is saying I should try get into the AFLW but I want to play footy and get a degree too, maybe work in health and being a midwife, that’s my dream.”

The trip was organised after Girls Academy leaders realised it was a similar distance from Alice Springs to Darwin as it was from Alice Springs to Adelaide but most Academy trips see the girls taken north.

Nicolette “Sissy” Dunn, who is the program manager at Centralian Senior College Girls’ Academy says the trip has helped the students come out of their shells.

She said she’d seen them present in front of each other confidently for the first time and seen the girls form relationships with their WAAA counterparts.

“Coming down here it was just pushing the girls out of their comfort zones a bit and opening their eyes to all the opportunities that are available outside of the Northern Territory as well, so just broadening their horizons,” she said.

“We have a lot of talent in Alice Springs but sometimes you get caught up in a small-town mentality.

“We’re also a very proud town so a lot of girls love Alice and don’t want to leave but you can aspire to many different things but it is important to bring it back.

Ms Dunn said she expected many of the girls to now be interested in moving to South Australia to take up some of the opportunities in education and sport that they had been shown, especially Port Adelaide’s Women’s Aboriginal AFL Academy.

“We want these girls to be the best person they can be, whether that is getting a job, studying to be a doctor, or something as seemingly small as being the first person in your family to finish high school, if that is what makes you the best version of yourself then you need to work hard at it,” she said.

“Some of the girls in our group have never left Alice Springs so it’s just been exciting and overwhelming.

“For the girls to see the academy, they get the familiar family group of Aboriginal girls coming together and striving together, and that’s something that interests them.”

Port Adelaide was only too happy to get involved and seven indigenous AFL players spent time with the girls, playing games and coaching them.

Jasmine Miller who is Aboriginal Programs Coordinator with Port Adelaide Football Club said one of the WAAA girls, Charlotte Birch, is originally from Alice Springs and had helped break the ice.

“The idea behind the visit was to give the Centralian girls an insight into our academy and show them what it is like to be in the academy if they did choose to move down,” Ms Miller said.

“We’re an educational academy so we’re helping the students finish year 12, whether that’s through a Cert III in Fitness that the girls are completing at the moment or the many other opportunities we can provide.

“There’s some interstate travel and the carrot at the end of this year is a trip to New Zealand for a cultural exchange.”

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